DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily DVD news and reviews.
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/2/2010
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/7/2010
The definition of a memorable film, obviously, is that the movie was so good that it "stuck with you" and you remember it very well. However, how often do you vividly remember that environment or circumstances in which you saw a particular film? With Clash of the Titans, (for some reason), I remember it all very well. It was my friend's 11th birthday party and his Dad drove a bunch of us to the $1 theater to see the movie. I remember that it took what felt like forever to get there and I remember being enthralled by the movie. Knowing little about mythology, the entire experience was a great ride and it inspired me to learn more. Does this movie hold up at all, nearly 30 years later?
Clash of the Titans takes place during the time of Greek mythology. As the film opens, a woman and her infant son are cast out to see by a cruel king. This would turn out to be a mistake, as the baby is the son of Zeus (Laurence Olivier), ruler of the Gods of Mt. Olympus. Zeus punishes this king by having his city destroyed. He also sees fit that the woman and the baby survive. The baby grows up to be Perseus (Harry Hamlin), a strong warrior. But, just as the Gods can be protectors, they can be cruel as well. Jealous of the way in which treated her son, Calibos (Neil McCarthy), Thetis (Maggie Smith), whisks Perseus from his safe island home to the cursed city of Jopper. There, Perseus learns that Calibos is terrorizing the city and killing anyone who attempts to take the hand of his former love, Andromeda (Judi Bowker). Intrigued by this, Perseus seeks out Andromeda and falls in love with her. Angered further by this, Thetis insists that Andromeda be sacrificed to The Kraken, a titan of the sea. Perseus then sets out on a quest to find a way to save his new love.
In my recent review forThe Neverending Story, I wrote about how that film hadn't aged very well due to pacing and special effects. Having now watched Clash of the Titans again, I have to re-assess that view. A lot of Clash of the Titans has not stood the test of time. The blue-screen effects are laughably bad and are incredibly obvious to the modern-day viewer. Often the "seam" is quite evident and many things aren't to scale. When Perseus is flying towards Jopper, it looks as if he's going over the Grand Canyon -- where does this movie take place? The film's pacing is laborious at times, such as the scene in which Perseus crosses the river Styx in what seems like real-time. Some of the sets and period pieces reminded me of when Star Trek would travel to the past.
So, if the movies suffers from these kinds of problems, again, similar to those found in The Neverending Story, then why do I view the films in different lights? The answer is simple - the story. Special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen wanted to do a film based on Greek mythology. He had his long-time colleague Beverly Cross take some of the most well-known stories and string them together into a narrative which contains Gods, heroes, and monsters -- the perfect combination. Clash of the Titans features a classic tale of a hero on a quest. Along the way he faces seemingly insurmountable odds and many dangers. If done well, this kind of story will always be successful.
The story here is boosted by the level of imagination involved. The script takes the classic tales and characters from Greek mythology, such as Pegasus, Medusa, and the Gods of Mt. Olympus, and mixes them with some new elements. While, again, the effects seem limited today, this clearly didn't stop the filmmakers from going for broke. Behind the stop-motion animation from the legendary Harryhausen, we are treated to giant scorpions, a two-headed dog, and of course, The Kraken. While this monster is not found in Greek myths, it is arguably the most memorable part of the film, and "Release The Kraken" is hands down the most beloved quote from the film. The movie also gets a great boost from its cast. While he may be reality show fodder today, Harry Hamlin was very good as Perseus and did a great job of remaining serious, even when fighting with things that weren't there. The supporting cast sports the likes of Olivier, Smith, Burgess Meredith, Ursula Andress, and Claire Bloom. The presence of these veterans gives the film real dramatic weight.
Over the years, I've seen Clash of the Titans many times, so the movie no longer holds any suspense for me. But, I still find it to be highly entertaining. The mythological characters are great, especially Medusa, and even when it's cheesy, the movie is still exciting. This Blu-ray Disc arrives just in time for the release of a remake of Clash of the Titans. I haven't seen the new movie yet, but the trailer gives the impression that much of the story and characters of the original have remained intact. This should be a key indicator to just how good this movie is.
Clash of the Titans puts a cast on a mechanical owl on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 29 Mbps. This is one of the strangest transfers which I've ever seen. Some of the shots are amongst the grainiest ever. They look as if a swarm of gnats are attacking the actors and it's honestly hard to tell what's happening at times. These shots are also quite dark. However, other scenes, such as when Perseus arrives at Medusa's temple are crystal clear and have great colors. Thus, it's difficult to rate this. Overall, I would have to say that it's disappointing, as the grainy scenes outnumber the clear ones. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2-channel track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 1.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Yes, you read that right, DTS-HD MA 2-channel. (I thought that it was odd myself.) Despite this oddity, the track sounds good, as it's clear and has a nice presence. The music sounds fine and the sound effects never overpower the dialogue. The stereo separation is acceptable, but not great.
The Clash of the Titans Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras, all of which cover the same theme. "A Conversation with Ray Harryhausen" (12 minutes) has the special effects legend discussing his career, his interest in mythological creatures and how Clash of the Titans came together. He not only talks about the monsters, but the human actors as well. He then talks about where the film was shot. Watching this, one gets the feeling that Harryhausen did far more than just create the monsters. In "Myths and Monsters", Harryhausen gives us a detailed analysis on how the seven main stop-motion characters were designed and brought to life.
Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long